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Posted by on Dec 9, 2012 in blogosphere, critical thinking | 18 comments

Conflation of criticism with mass murder – Freethought Blogs

One of the greatest barriers to having critical discussion with many religious believers — from my experience — is the meme that applying skepticism to religious ideas is rude, offensive, intolerant, and hateful. Rather than defending ideas or simply exiting the discussion, various theists have  objected to the discussion taking place and heaped abuse on the skeptic.

Around the ‘atheist blogosphere’ and throughout the skeptic community, open discussion of ideas is a very important tool which ought to lead, in optimal situations, to reaching justified true belief. In many cases, those who hold cherished ideas are often expected to consider objections and be able to adequately respond to them (or otherwise relinquish their beliefs). Rather than objecting to discussion taking place and labeling interlocutors as horrible people for voicing criticism — like some theists do — many in the atheist/skeptic community have honest discussions.

Sadly, some within the blogging network Freethought Blogs — when considering people identifying as Men’s Rights Activists or those otherwise applying skepticism to feminist thought including ‘rape culture,’ ‘patriarchy,’ ‘mansplaining,’ or ‘male privilege’ — behave worse than many theists I have met and decribed above. Rather than entertaining discussion, various commenters on the network (and the bloggers themselves) label their detractors as bigots, sexists, ‘hyperskeptical,’ misogynists, chill girls, etc. and engage in campaigns of villification and character attacks against those who dare to voice skepticism.

More recently, some bloggers from the Freethought Blogs network have taken an extra step and equated those who criticize feminist thought with mass-murderers. PZ Myers — after discussing the Montreal Massacre in which a gunman named Marc Lepine shot and killed 14 women after shouting “I hate feminists!” — wrote, “anonymous monsters on the internet who shriek affrontedly about women and feminists and moan that any feminist allies are ‘manginas’ — to me, every one of them has the name Marc Lepine, and is just hiding it in shame and fear and hatred and cowardice.”

Another writer on Freethought Blogs, Taslima Nasreen — not realizing that criticism of ideas is much different than ‘hatred of women’ — in a post titled “Feminism is hated because women are hated,” writes,

…in many parts of the world hundreds of women-haters still harass, exploit, torture, rape and kill hundreds of women everyday. Women get abused physically, mentally, emotionally everyday. [...] Today’s Marc Lepines do not kill themselves after killing women. They organize themselves to spread lies about women. They are Men’s Rights Activists [...] Today’s Marc Lepines are much bigger haters, they are cleverer, and more dangerous than Canada’s lone Marc Lepine.

In both Myers’ and Nasreen’s writings, not one example is provided of what they consider to be so repugnant. It is just simply assumed to be the case that people who offer criticism of feminist claims are just as bad — or perhaps even worse (in the case of Nasreen’s thought) — as a person who murders 14 people. Even if it is the case that anonymous people on the internet say nasty things about women, they certainly aren’t — as far as I know — committing mass murder.

Theists who object to criticism of religion on grounds that discussion is offensive or indicative of hatred are similar to people like Myers and Nasreen who conflate criticism with hatred and even go so far to say, as it seems from their writings, that criticism of feminist thought is worse than or equivalent to mass murder. Myers and Nasreen, though, are in worse positions than the theists. It’s quite easy, after all, to avoid discussions altogether and brand people who express differing ideas as worse than or equivalent to mass murderers.

  • http://twitter.com/Eshto Ryan Grant Long

    What keeps getting left out is that you don’t need to be a “men’s rights activist” to criticize a particular brand of feminism. There have been several major waves, and a wide variety of perspectives, some conflicting with each other. There have been feminist movements that were antagonistic toward issues of racial equality. There have been feminist movements that are very hostile to trans rights and identity. Some of the people that have gotten accused of “misogyny” by bloggers have been liberals and feminists (myself included), we just didn’t agree with a particular issue or viewpoint being advocated.

    The bloggers behind this mess appear to either have not studied anything about feminism, its history, evolution and various schools of thought – or they don’t care, and are just playing rhetorical games with us. They will propose specific concepts “such as Schroedinger’s rapist”. Then, when you criticize the concept because you don’t feel it stands up to logical scrutiny, suddenly they will fall back on “well all feminism is, is the equality of the sexes, so if you question that it means you’re sexist”. No, that isn’t all it is. If it were, almost everyone would be a feminist and casually identify as such. But that is not the case. Most people (including most women) are hesitant to self-identify as feminist, because they realize it isn’t simple “equality”. It’s a whole lot more complicated than that, and some strains of feminism are very ideological, to the point where they will be antagonistic toward science or other viewpoints that seem to conflict with the ideology.

    For my part, I have definitely read some sexist things on men’s rights websites. I lean left, I sympathize more with the historically oppressed than the historically privileged. Perhaps arguably I could be described as some kind of feminist (certainly Sommers’ “equity feminism”, if not more than that). But either way, I want nothing to do with a “movement” of bloggers and their readers who think telling people to f*** off on twitter and facebook amounts to some kind of activism or education. It doesn’t.

    • http://www.youtube.com/user/NaomiChambers Naomi Chambers

      I have to agree. I dislike both Feminism and MRA, and I have attacked PZ Myers and his horrid arguments.

      • http://www.justinvacula.com Justin Vacula

        It’s a good point. One need not identify as an MRA or ‘anti-feminism’ to be a critic of feminist thought…and there is a good deal of feminist thought ranging from sensible ideas to Schrodinger’s Rapist.

        • http://twitter.com/Mykeru Mykeru

          Much of the MRA is, I think itself a reaction to the socio-political agenda of feminism, although many people commit the lazy false equivalency of thinking that because feminism as practiced is a supremacist movement, that the MRM is a counter supremacy movement, or nostalgia for the way things were centuries ago, or some other caricature. You know, the same way “atheism is a religion” that “requires as much faith as theism”.

          The FTBers and Meyers in particular always allude to the vile hate filled language of MRAs but never ever link to it. I think their rational is that they need enemies for social cohesion, even if they have to invent them in whole or part.

          I would ask Ms. Chambers (BTW I use that without irony, as using a polite form of address that doesn’t reference marital status makes perfect sense to me) what in particular does she not like about MRAs and provide an example. Not for “citation needed” haranguing, but as someone who has been labeled an MRA for my opposition to Atheism Plus and for being quite sympathetic to the MRM, I am genuinely curious.

          • http://twitter.com/Mykeru Mykeru

            Actually, I withdraw the request. I watched Naomi Chambers’ video in which she described an article by JTO pointing out systemic problems as “conspiracy theory” and they way she treated someone commenting with a nutty and narcissistic “Kiss my ass…better yet, I would prefer you don’t touch me” insult worthy of Rebecca Watson.

            Now I don’t give a shit.

            Obviously we are dealing with yet another person postulating false equivalencies due to the belief that in any disagreement between two opposing positions, both are wrong and so, by default, she’s smarter than everyone else.

          • Astrokid NJ

            The beauty of Naomi is that on one hand she claims

            Feminism’s general definition…and I would like to stress the word general definition, is that feminism is a philosophy that supports the right and equality of women. Over centuries, women have been exploited by men. Today, and all around the world, women live as second class citizens.

            and on the other hand she says

            A long time ago actress Joan Crawford was asked what she thought about the women’s liberation movement. This is what she said, “Women’s Lib is a lot of hogwash. Women have always had their rights, but they were too dumb to use them. Any woman with intelligence and ambition had always been able to make it in the so-called man’s world”.
            I happen to mostly agree with Ms. Crawford. Any woman with half a brain can make it in this world. In turn, when I think about the MRAs, I must apply the same logic. Any man with half a brain can make it in this world.

            So..which is it? Is “historical oppression of women by men” (a.k.a Patriarchy Theory) bullshit or not? Double speak in the same blogpost.
            She also says:

            For example, I agree with most of the points A Voice For Men raise about male issues. Please check out the link so you will know what I am agreeing and disagreeing with….
            1. Appalling State of Mens Health – DISAGREE – get off your butts and go to the doctor. Don’t wait for your wife to make you go. Men die of stubborness.
            4. Men conditioned to be disposable – DISAGREE – if women cannot use the ‘social conditioning argument’, as discussed when I tore apart Femanons Blog for saying women have no choice because they are ‘conditioned’, then the same rule applies to men.
            12. Men lack Reproductive Rights – DISAGREE – it is called a condom. Use it. Do not trust anybody but yourself when it comes to birth control.

            So she agrees with the issues, but yet MRAs have no legitimacy?
            I have quoted the ones she disagrees on.. to demo how juvenile and shallow her knowledge is on these issues.
            1) Mens health issue is one of both individual consciousness in men (which is part of the consciousness raising efforts that can be done only by well-funded organizations.. not by some simple collection of individuals on websites), as well as society’s investment in male-specific illnesses, such as prostrate cancer. Men die of it as much as women die of breast cancer.. yet all we see in October is Pink Ribbons. Watch any NFL game in October.. you see Pink.
            2) Male Disposability.. sigh! Warren farrell has written chapters on this.. this also requires HUGE consciousness raising in society.. individuals dont really understand this easily.
            3) Male reproductive Rights: “Use a condom”? Thats what feminists say too. How puny brained do you have to be to come up with this argument? Why dont we use the same argument against abortion? Lets ban the Day After Pill (except for cases of rape), lets ban abortion (except for medical emergencies).. After all women have daily contraception. Use it.
            The fact that in an unplanned pregnancy.. men have absolutely no rights.. he can not opt of of fatherhood and the law sees to it he has to pay child support for the next 18 years of his life.. is devastating for a man. And dont get me started on Paternity Fraud. Its an extremely cruel thing perpetrated by many women, and the law supports women.. who hasnt watched Maury here?

            You cant even argue with Naomi on her blog. I tried. She comes up with “‘Are you feeling emasculated by me?” followed by expletives.. which I am happy to return of course. She’s just a few steps removed from the FTB baboons.

        • http://BitchSpot.JadeDragonOnline.com Cephus

          As much as I can see the MRA side being a reaction to radical feminism, I do strongly disagree with either side existing. If you care about equality, be pro-equality for all, do not promote equality for one side or the other and ignore the issues of the other side. It goes for sexism, racism, sexual orientation, gender orientation, you name it. People really need to stop acting like being for one side or the other is going to get the job done. Just be for equal treatment for all people and be done with it.

    • Ronlawhouston

      Honestly, I know that a number of the MRA people are a bit over the top, but have you actually seen the statistics for custody in family courts? It’s changed a bit over my 27 year career in family law, but it’s still radically slanted against men. I’m actually guilty of sexist thinking myself. I defend people accused of not paying child support and I’ve often gotten caught using “he” rather than “she.”

      • http://BitchSpot.JadeDragonOnline.com Cephus

        See, that’s really where I have problems with both the MRA and feminist sides. Feminists whine about how they have unequal rights, yet when you get to an issue where they actually have superior rights, where men get the shaft, they tend to be silent on the issue, often even saying “good, they screwed us, they deserve it!” Men’s rights advocates often do the same thing. Both sides are so focused on only their own rights that they’re often happy to shove a stick in the eye of the other side out of spite. Everyone ought to be fighting for equal rights for everyone. If a woman sees a man has unequal rights, she ought to fight to correct it. If a man sees a woman not being treated equally, he ought to fight to fix it. Gender ought not even enter into it, everyone ought to be fighting for universal equality.

  • http://twitter.com/Mykeru Mykeru

    Regarding the “Ethics” of P.Z. Meyers.

    Nothing is as vile and antithetical to civil discourse than the hateful ravings of P.Z. Meyers. What’s more, Meyers is associated with a group of “evolutionary biologists” who bring to mind the excesses of Social Darwinism and the American eugenics movement, his support of which is completely obvious by his writings that I would quote in full save that I find them so objectionable, that lead to the slaughter of millions of Jews, homosexuals and political dissidents under the Nazi regime and, ultimately to the 60 million human being needlessly murdered in the Second World War.

    How anyone can tolerate the writings of a man that inevitably leads to such suffering and carnage is beyond me and I consider anyone who tolerates this monster to be an enemy of humanity itself.

    (Jesus Fucking Christ, that’s easy to do and JUST PLAIN FUN. Thanks, Peez!)

  • CommanderTuvok

    What makes PZ even more of a hateful, vengeful fool is the way he treats women who disagree with him or any of his inner circle of radical feminists. Rather like elements of the Far Left and the Far Right, he viciously attacks anybody who doesn’t share the same level of extremism and insane ideological dogma.

    PZ, Rebecca Watson, Stephanie Svan and Ophelia Benson, among others, have a contemptible attitude towards certain women.

    As for Taslima Nasreen, I admire her activism and her criticism of Islam (regarded as “Islamophobic” by some at FTB, funnily enough), she has some faults. She was recently talking on Twitter about how men with small penises don’t impress her. Childish stuff.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Deanna-Jackson/617808744 Deanna Jackson

    These A+theism folks just keep getting crazier and crazier.

    • Copyleft

      You’d think more skeptics would be familiar with the attitude “Disagreement with my ideas = personal attack on me as a person,” just from dealing with religious fanatics every day. That’s exactly what’s going on here.
      The messge of FTB is “disagreement = rape.” Therefore, if you want to be respectful of people’s victimhood, you must precede all of your posts with “TRIGGER WARNING: I disagree with you.”

      • http://www.facebook.com/people/Deanna-Jackson/617808744 Deanna Jackson

        Agreed. Andrea Dworkins is dead and gone, but her delusional, paranoid, conspiracy theory, man-hating bullshit is the dogma that has taken a hold of this segment of the skeptic community, sadly. It’s insane.

  • ThePrussian

    What makes this even more funny is the fact that they all started whining and throwing gigantic temper tantrums when it was suggested that they might actually care more about their poor disenfranchised sisters than about an offer of coffee to one of their fellow spoiled brats. Not to mention the fact that they piss and moan about anyone who wants to actually do something for their abused sisters.

  • http://twitter.com/noelplum99 noelplum99

    Good article, Justin.

    The rhetoric of these people is nothing short of hate-filled hyperbole, typically made in lieu of addressing actual concerns and genuine conflicts of opinion.

    The vitriol you receive over on some of those blogs is nothing short of astonishing when set aside what you actually do: you may as well actually BE a woman killer. The problem is, they don’t want to actually discuss anything, they are happiest just siotting there and throwing shit.

    I had the perfect example in Myers thread “That’s not a “response”, Michael, it’s a “denial”” when one of the commenters asked me to give my thoughts on whether Shermer’s ‘guy thing’ was sexist. I wrote the following comment which i felt, even if it was wrong, at least showed a degree of insight worthy of discussion (resp #560):

    “Of course, i suppose it depends crucially on whether you view Shermer’s
    statement as descriptive or normative. clearly, i viewed it as
    descriptive; if you viewed his statement as normative (that it is right
    and proper that scepticism is a guy thing) then it is clearly sexist.
    Maybe this gets to the heart of the issue and explains the disagreement?”

    these were the responses i received:

    “Whatever you claim is wrong. End of story. Try again with a functioning brain, which allows for the fact you are wrong…”

    and

    “What high-minded twaddle.
    Labeling an activity as “a guy thing” is sexist, unless the activity is producing sperm.”

    So this is about the level they are at and why I said to Myers last night (in a tweet) that if these were my regulars I would frankly be embarassed and that it is actually bothers me that he not only doesn’t care but encourages them to troll and bully.

    Keep going Justin, you are pretty strong to stand up to these bigots (who are seemingly replacing bigotry with their own brand of bigotry),

    Jim

    • https://twitter.com/OffensivAtheist Bismarket

      “Whatever you claim is wrong. End of story. Try again with a functioning brain, which allows for the fact you are wrong”….Why not just put your fingers in your ears & go “la la la” it would save time. To think i ever thought more of them than i do Westboro Baptist Church is embarrassing.

  • https://twitter.com/OffensivAtheist Bismarket

    Can’t we just pretend they don’t exist, or at least let’s ignore them like we will our inappropriate uncle at Christmas dinner? They’ve become the Atheist/Skeptical equivalent of Westboro’ Baptist Church IMO!

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